Confused by all the new words you are faced with and have to pretend to understand in a yoga session? you are not alone. When venturing into new lands, its okay to not know what to expect. Here is all the Yoga language you need to know before getting started.
To be fair, most of the Yoga language is Sanskrit, a language of ancient India with a 3,500-year history rooted in Hindu philosophy as well as Buddhism and Jainism, a completely alien language for most. Sanskrit is also regarded as the ‘high’ language meaning its mainly used in religious and scientific discourse. Yoga language in specific comes from Yoga Sūtra (YS)- the language of teachings on healing, spirituality, meditation, and India’s ancient yoga traditions. As new yoga practices evolve from the ancient practice, a lot has changed and a lot remains unchanged.
Visions and versions of Yoga have been reinvented uncountable times by all kinds of practices and groups. Usually to make it available and accessible to people of many different cultures, belief systems, and classes. We at Skill Yoga too, are guilty as charged. In fact, not guilt. What we hoped to do was make Yoga relatable for a mostly male-centric audience, full of athletes and sportsmen who could do without the spiritual mumbo jumbo and focus on the exceptional, scientifically-backed benefits of merging bodily strength, flexibility, mobility, and mental focus. To be better, stronger, more focused and excel in every field. Be it for professional or ‘play-at-home’ athletes. We succeeded.
Like the practice of Yoga, Yoga language has also evolved. In this blog post, we dont only focus on Sanskrit-only words that you should know. That’s because, frankly, you won’t hear much of that in an average Skill Yoga class. Rather, we talk about different terminologies that might have you confused. Let this be your go-to codebook for Yoga language. It will make sure there are no hurdles and hiccups between your practice and you.
You may maintain a chair pose (albeit on a chair) to go through these (hopefully with your arms lowered and by your side)
While the word itself is derived from two different Sanskrit roots, the Veda (a body of religious texts originating in ancient India) used the word in conjunction with yoking, joining, and connection’.
Literature that followed denoted the word to ‘controlling the body, senses, mind, and intellect’. Again, with the two major Sanskrit dictionaries, Amarakosa refers to Yoga as protection, method, meditation, harmony, and technique, and Medinikosa denotes the term ‘yoga’ as a means to achieving the unachieved, and technique to keep the body young and steady (1).
Asana simply means ‘pose’. All yoga practices are built up of physical postures referred to as asanas. Earlier, Asana was commonly known as a seated pose as the literal meaning of the word is ‘seat’ (2). However, with the evolution of the practice, Asana came to contain all the different postures or movements in Yoga today.
Hatha has become a blanket term for all types of Yoga that integrates physical poses (3) that are designed to align and calm your mind and body. It (4) differs from other forms because it denotes a slower, gentler form of Yoga practice. The main focus is on balancing opposing forces such as effort and ease, breath and body. Makes sense as even the word hatha in Sanskrit represents sun for ‘ha’ and moon for ‘tha’, both opposing forces (5).
Vinyasa yoga is more creative you could say. Breathwork is merged with a variety and flow of poses and sequences, the intensity of which depends on the coach or the practice. The steady, repetitive cycles of inhale and exhales bring about a calm and focus, eventually getting you to a mental focal point. Vinyasa can also be a great workout for the body that mostly always gets you to break a sweat (6).
Okay, that is it for the Sanskrit lesson. Here are all the terms we consider really important for your Skill Yoga journey.
Anyone who has done yoga knows that after holding a fairly difficult pose or completing a flow there comes a moment when each muscle in your body is crying out. At this point what your body needs is a reset button. Restorative poses do just that. You dont need to fall down to your knees or sit during yoga practice. You have to keep the flow going by entering into a restorative pose. Here you can relax for a few breaths and then joining the practice when the body and mind feel somewhat recovered.
The same goes for your Skill Yoga program. Within each workout, when you feel truly exhausted in body and in mind, press the pause button. Go into a restorative pose such as a child’s pose or a corpse pose. Come back energized and finish the rest of the training with more focus.
Most people are extremely confused about what the core really is. Ask the common guy and he would point to his abdomen. He is not wrong, as many of the abdominal muscles build up the core (7) but that’s not all. Let’s get the experts take: “The core is a 3-dimensional space with muscular boundaries: diaphragm (superior), abdominal and oblique muscles (anterior-lateral), paraspinal and gluteal muscles (posterior), and pelvic floor and hip girdle (inferior) – Anderson & Huxel Bliven, 2013” (8). In simple English, that pretty much makes it every muscle that is not in your legs and arms.
Almost all Yoga poses require core strength and stability. But don’t worry, this is something you will continue to work on and build on your Skill Yoga journey with inversions, twists, some standing poses and balancing postures.
BREATHE INTO …
This is probably something you have heard quite often in the average Yoga class but, anatomically, the only place you can breathe into is your lungs. Even when you take a deep breath, you are not just filling your lungs up with air. Your whole body makes room for this to happen. Your mouth, spine, and ribcage facilitate this. However, it is possible to engage the muscles in a specific area of your body other than the ones involved in breathing (9).
When you are training with the Skill Yoga Coach, we urge you to listen to your breathing, focus on it and facilitate it. With every deep breath create space for focused attention onto specific body parts engaged in the pose.
STACK YOUR …
In Yoga classes, the teacher asking you to stack your torso on top of your hips or stacking each of your vertebrae on top of another is probably something you have heard before. Bone stacking is a thing. Think of bone stacking as a simple act of creating intuitive skeletal alignment (10). If you have proper alignment you’re already doing this, you just don’t know it yet. With proper alignment we can maximize our ability to support weight, even if it’s just our own body weight and hold Yoga poses for longer.
Proper alignment is something we will carry teaching with each workout in each training. It’s very very important and as you carry on your journey with Skill Yoga you will start to understand this more.
Have you heard about Sun and Moon salutations? Salutation, generally signify a greeting. Likewise, in Yoga, the sun and moon salutations are meant to ‘salute’ the sun and the moon, respectively. Don’t worry about the overplayed spiritual elements to salutations in Yoga. Take, for instance, the sun salutations. It has lots of physical benefits and is really a complete workout. A sun salutation will purify the blood by improving circulation to all the major organs throughout the body, ensure the proper functioning of the stomach, bowels and nerve center and strengthen your muscles (11).
With Skill Yoga, you will be doing some salutations but we promise to not ask you to let the spirit of the sun or moon shine into you. Think of it as a fantastic way to invigorate and connect the mind and body.
Heres what you don’t need to stress about at all. In fact, we will make sure you don’t even hear these terms when training with us:
CHAKRAS, MANTRAS, TANTRA
We really believe in not complicating things. Yoga is immensely important to us and we want it to be just as important for everyone else regardless of age, gender, culture, religion.
While you will find many Yoga practices around that will require you to chant ‘Om’ when holding a pose, or have you chanting different mantras during your practice, we will not ask you to do this. We will speak of practicality, not mysticism. Read more.
We will talk about the scientific marvels relating to Yoga practice and its many benefits, but not of spirits and magical centers within our bodies that omit energy
Take Yoga at face value. Just start and see where your Yoga journey takes you.